How Remote Team Managers Can Learn from #LDRs

Article

One of my colleagues, Anh, recently shared this insight on Twitter:

As someone who has been in a long distance relationship and who has only ever worked remotely, Anh’s tweet helped me realize something: my best remote work experiences have, in fact, been on teams where my colleagues and I treat one another with the same thoughtfulness and effort that goes into LDRs. 

Here’s my thinking. 

When I was in a long distance relationship, I had three priorities:

  1. Staying emotionally connected to my partner. This meant intentionally setting aside times for video calls, and committing to make those a priority. We rarely missed our set times, and our relationship hurt on the occasions that we did. 
  2. Finding fun things for us to do together from afar. We discovered NetflixParty during Covid, we sent each other spontaneous gifts, and we downloaded apps designed for distanced couples.
  3. Planning trips & counting down the days until we saw each other again. Our relationship was always at its worst when we didn’t know the next time we would see each other. It felt fake and disconnected. Our relationship was at its best when we could plan a trip over FaceTime and count down the days.

The company I work for currently, twine, does things in a jarringly similar way:

  1. We make an effort to stay connected. 

Every Zoom meeting - whether it’s an All Hands, weekly retro, or department discussion - we start with 5-10 minutes of socialization. We do this using our own app, twine for Zoom, which the meeting leader uses to launch us into timed, back-to-back Breakout Rooms. It’s a quick and intentional way to bring connectivity to our team. 

  1. We find fun things to do together from afar.

Every week, one team member is responsible for planning our Wednesday “twine,” a 30-minute, work-free meeting that utilizes our app in some way. We’ve done improv, played virtual mafia, and even walked each other through our neighborhoods on Google Street View. 

  1. We plan regular offsite trips & count down the days until we’re there.

Our team holds quarterly offsite trips to reconnect and re-energize. Much like in LDRs, we find ourselves counting down the days until we’re in Mexico City, Palm Springs, or wherever else in the world. They’re expensive, but they’re worth it– both from a productivity standpoint, and when it comes to keeping your team connected. 

Just like people in relationships, no company has the whole remote-connectivity thing figured out entirely. Distance is hard. We’re learning and adjusting as we go. 

But we haven’t broken up with each other yet.

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PS: Want to help your own remote team feel more connected? Try starting your next Zoom meeting with a round of twine– free for up to 5 people in the Zoom Apps Marketplace. 

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